Disease and illness are things that terrify most people, because the suffering resulting from them seems to have no “point” to it. The types of suffering that have a “point” like say, the frustrations that come with raising children or owning a car, seem to have more value because the end goal is more tangible. But, things are not always as they seem. What is the end goal of the sufferings of leprosy, cancer, or cystic fibrosis? To stay alive. And that is exactly why illness is so special, because the consolation or prize is life itself. Thus, an ill person has a deeper appreciation for life, and takes it less for granted.
Jesus wishes every person could have this appreciation for life deeply ingrained in them, because He suffered and died on the Cross so that we may again share in God’s divine life.
His Passion at the time that it was happening seemed to have no “point” — how could any good come from being scourged and nailed to a cross? The answer lies in His innocence and His genuine love for his executioners. Jesus forgives them because he sees the good in them—he knows that even they are made in God’s image and likeness. This unbelievable forgiving love is what God is. He is pure love. Every fiber of Jesus’ being is love. So, to be truly Christ-like, a sick person should love the thing that is killing him. It is only through this radical love that sin and death lose their power…and the only place sin and death have absolutely no power is in heaven.
It is a paradox, but because of what Jesus Christ did for us, the closer you are to this seemingly pointless suffering, the closer you are to the threshold of heaven. Whether or not you “cross” that threshold comes down to an act of the will— the act of loving your sufferings just as He did on the Cross.
“For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for Him.” —Philippians 1:29
“In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” —1 Peter 1:6-9
“Dear friends do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.” —1 Peter 4:12-13
“Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” —Romans 8:17
“Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.” —Philippians 2:14-16
“But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow his steps.” —1 Peter 2:20-21
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” —Matthew 11:28-30